The Apple Doesn't Fall Far
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9
Children are often compared to their parents. As infants and toddlers, people often wonder who a child will look more like, mom or dad. They compare eyes and noses, smiles and personalities, hair color and level of curliness. As a child grows, and their features more defined, there is often a strong resemblance to one parent’s genetics or the other’s and yet, for most of us, we are a solid mix of our parent’s genetics. But every once in a while you’ll meet someone who, when you look at a photos, could be a twin to one parent or the other. Or you’ll meet someone who has a personality which is nearly identical to one of their parents. In those instances, the phrase “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” can often be heard.
The reality is that, no matter how hard we try to escape it at times in our lives, our parents have a strong influence on who we become. We watch our parents and mimic them from our earliest days. And so it should be with our heavenly father. As we look towards Jesus more and more, we should naturally mimic who he was more and more. One of the names by which we know Jesus, and one of the ways by which we should mimic him, is the Prince of Peace.
So what is this peace look like we are supposed to be part of making happen? First, it might help to talk about what it DOESN’T look like. This beatitude isn’t saying we should pursue a fake, temporary peace secured by glossing over real differences or making light of ungodliness. We are not called to ignore a problem, or deny it exists at all, in the hopes that it will go away. We are not being asked to appease a bully. These actions don’t bring true, authentic peace to our world.
True, authentic peace is the peace of Christ. The peace which passes all understanding spoken of in Philippians 4:7. Working towards authentic peace means extending an olive branch to someone we have been clashing with and standing up for someone we see being taken advantage of. Pursuing authentic peace means taking action to promote harmony and working reconcile people not only with each other but with God as well. Authentic peace often takes a lot of work on the part of the peacemaker, work which requires getting past the surface of a conflict and into the messy depths which created and continue to sustain discord.
Jesus is the ultimate example of being a peacemaker. As the son of God, he left his rightful place in heaven where there is no sin and therefore none of the consequences of sin such as pain and hunger to become man and dwell among us. He ultimately paid with his life to so that we may someday know what it is to dwell in the presence of God in heaven. But during his ministry, he wasn’t always soft-spoken, unwilling to rock the boat, and accepting of what everyone else said. He wasn’t afraid to speak hard truth. He wasn’t afraid to stand up for those who were being treated unfairly. He even got angry to the point of flipping tables over in the temple. Being a peacemaker, as Jesus shows us, is not being a pushover but it is about standing up when God has called you to in the way God has called you to.
Perhaps one of the hardest realities of being a peacemaker is that, often, you won’t be successful. Why? Because it often isn’t just about you. Most often, to be a peacemaker, means there is another flawed, imperfect, sinful human being in the picture. As Hebrews 12:14 reminds us, we are to “make every effort to live in peace and to be holy.” Another version translates the verse to say, “Strive for peace with everyone.” The hard reality is that there are people who, no matter what we say or do, are determined to live in strife. So, when it is possible, as much as it relies on us, we are to “be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:18)
Putting the work in to be a peacemaker, to emulate Jesus, the Prince of Peace, in this way comes with a promise that we will be called children of God because being a peacemaker is what a child of God does. It is something by which they are defined. The work they do to reconcile their fellow man to God and to each other is the work of Christ. And while it is amazing when we see our efforts bear fruit and authentic peace achieved in a relationship, this beatitude is very much not about the results of our efforts but about the effort itself.
- How do you help others find true peace in their relationship with Christ? With you? With others?
- Where in your life have you accepted, even embraced, a fake, temporary peace in the effort to escape conflict or avoid truly dealing with a hard issue?
- The work many missionary organizations do to address social justice issues is the work of peacemakers. Consider getting involved with, and learning from, groups like Feed My Starving Children, Lifewater International, Mercy Ships, International Justice Mission, and many others. Your local congregation’s mission team can also likely point you to organizations or individuals they support in the work of peacemaking around the world.